Notes: Rockies shake up bullpen
Corpas, Ramirez to see more late-inning action
DENVER -- The Rockies pitching staff has gotten off to a strong start, posting a 3.75 ERA through the first two weeks of the season. But with the bullpen going 2-5 with a 4.09 ERA, the Rockies didn't waste any time in shaking things up.
"We're going to shuffle the deck a little bit," manager Clint Hurdle said before Monday's series opener with the Giants, announcing that Byung-Hyun Kim had been placed on the disabled list with a right thumb contusion. Kim, a member of the last year's rotation, started this season in the bullpen, but got a spot start Sunday and hurt his thumb while batting.
The Rockies called up right-hander Zach McClellan to take Kim's spot on the roster, and are looking to 24-year-old Manny Corpas and 25-year-old Ramon Ramirez to take some of the burden off veteran setup man LaTroy Hawkins, who had three of the 'pen's five losses and had posted a 10.13 ERA in his first seven appearances.
"We'll definitely get Corpas more involved later, we'll push Ramirez back later, and I think McClellan will fall into that seventh-inning spot," Hurdle said. "LaTroy, every eighth-inning opportunity won't be his, it was explained to him today. We need to help him along, get back in tune with what he does well. He's been inconsistent and he knows it. That's how we'll shuffle that up a little bit."
Corpas (1.35 ERA in seven innings) and Ramirez (no runs allowed in six innings) have excelled in relief this season, and after a few days of deliberations and scrutiny on the part of Hurdle and general manager Dan O'Dowd, the decision was made to put a more substantial load on the young pitchers' plates.
"Corpas pitched the eighth inning last year on a couple occasions," Hurdle pointed out. "He pitched the eighth inning the other day in L.A. It's not your druthers to do with a young pitcher, but sometimes, hey, he's earned it, he's pitched well, let's see what happens."
Hurdle didn't rule Hawkins out of the eighth inning, suggesting that he could compliment the younger pitchers, but the Rockies clearly don't want his early season struggles to snowball into a larger bullpen issue.
McClellan has yet to pitch a big-league inning, but could well be called upon in short order, considering a taxed pitching staff after Kim's early exit from Sunday's game. During the first week of the season for Triple-A Colorado Springs, McClellan threw four shutout innings, holding opposing hitters to a .143 average while striking out three and walking none.
"He's going to get thrown in the fire," Hurdle said of the 28-year-old rookie who came over from the Royals in a trade of Minor Leaguers three years ago. "Zach's pitched well. We saw him good early in spring. We brought him back late in spring to watch him a little bit more. This is an opportunity we wanted to give to him first, and we're confident he'll run with it."
Barmes back: The Rockies' starting shortstop for the bulk of the past two years, Clint Barmes, was called back to the club Sunday after being demoted to Colorado Springs to start the season. Barmes was hitting .200 through a week of playing shortstop for the Sky Sox, but with second baseman Kazuo Matsui going to the DL on Sunday, Barmes got the nod over Omar Quintanilla.
Barmes explained that he's been working on "my confidence with the bat and becoming more relaxed at the plate and taking a game plan to the plate and trusting it and executing" since being cut from the big-league roster late in Spring Training, losing his job to rookie Troy Tulowitzki. "I felt good. I hit balls hard. I got out a lot, but felt comfortable at the plate. I was letting the game come to me. That's the key."
With Matsui on the DL, Jamey Carroll can be expected to see increased playing time at second, with Barmes available throughout the infield and possibly to help spell the struggling Tulowitzki, hitting .179 through his first 39 at-bats of the season.
"We had conversation about Quintanilla and Barmes," Hurdle said of the roster move. "Barmes was in competition for that spot throughout spring. Do you leave him down there and let him get his feet on the ground? He had good clean at-bats the first four games that he was involved, he played good defense. Who knows how the dynamic might play out here? It might just help. He can play second. He knows he's here to help us any way we can. I think he's just a little better fit right now for us."
Struggles up the middle: With the exception of Matsui, who was hitting .361 and was 5-for-5 in stolen-base attempts, the Rockies have struggled with three new starters up the middle, including Tulowitzki at short, rookie Chris Iannetta (.130) behind the plate, and Willy Taveras (.147) in center, a key part of the offseason trade with the Astros for Jason Jennings.
"Troy and Chris probably have gotten in situations where they're over-trying," Hurdle said. "We've had to just slow them down. It's all part of that growth process that everybody that's played the game goes through at this level. They want to go 5-for-3, make up some lost ground in a hurry, and it doesn't work that way.
"I think there's some common fabric there also," Hurdle added regarding Taveras. "He didn't probably come out as clean as he wanted to. He's pushed the issue a little bit, but the last two games he went to the plate he saw more pitches, he took better swings. We're confident that he'll get his feet on the ground also."
On deck: The Rockies wrap up their short series with the Giants on Tuesday, sending rookie right-hander Jason Hirsh (1-1, 3.09 ERA) to the hill to face righty Matt Cain (0-1, 2.77 ERA) at 6:35 p.m. MT.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.